BT et C

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Had a nice chat with Jack last night. His employer, Tricia Parks, gave a talk that I'd like to read or watch, or whatever you do with talks that you missed. The basic idea is

The vice president of IT may be a concept with an expiration date, like the Vice President of Electricity. In olden days your company had a professional whose job was to make sure this newfangled thing called electricity was working at all or most times. Eventually, as Jack put it, you "outsourced the complexity" so that you just need to know.

-how to flip the switches.
-(the "advanced" tab) how to reset a circuit breaker.
-pay your bill

I will do an extended comparison of IT and e- later, but for now note a critical distinction:

-electricity is on or off (0 or 1), it doesn't vary in quality, except as its availability varies over time. 99.9% reliability, or what have you. This is basically the only method of supplier differentiation.
-software can be working, but crappy. Its value at time X can be 0 or any positive integer. Yes, right up to "infinity"


If you are not the IT guy, it might as well be of "binary" value. You've got 4 things you want it to do, and it's either doing them or not. As Carr puts it

"The majority of business users of PC's rely on a well-established and fairly rudimentary set of programs - e-mail, word processing, Web browsing and spreadsheets - that use only a small fraction of the computing power built into today's desktops and laptops. The case for continuing to upgrade these programs is weak and getting weaker ... nearly 75 percent [of corporate buyers] want to see less frequent upgrades, and more than 20 percent plan to stop buying upgrades altogether"

Now I haven't read Carr's book, but I can't shake the feeling that IT will continue to matter a little: the IT guy's job is to be aware of the software's "actual" integer value; to navigate what software is available and spot opportunities to enhance it. It is (or rather, should not be) to "keep IT going" like the old VP of e- did.

The "core four" (eml, browser, text, and spreadsheet) might get completely commoditized, but the sky will always be the limit as to what IT can do, because it is a product and a cause of human creative thinking.

PS: google "vice president +of electricity" to see Nicholas Carr transformed into Nicholas Cage. hehe.


  • hey, I like the new site style...

    I like your comparison and I think the VP of IT isn't going to go away, but it is going to change drastically. with the internet and it's derivative technologies (Web Services), I think the focus of IT managers will need to change from highly complex programming to utilizing the correct combinations of commoditized information services. but that's your VP of IT in the non-tech businesses.

    there is still quite a bustling electrical industry, n'est pas? and there are millions of people working in that industry to make sure the application of electricity as it applies to business is a simple matter for the businesses to comprehend. that's the tech industry's job, too.

    I would also say that the value of software can most assuredly also extend into the negative integers in some cases. lots of programs are written by our IT department in about 3 or 4 hours that save about 1 hour of AR's labor, but they still want us to do it.

    By Blogger luke, at 3:33 PM  

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